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Jones, E. (1956). The Inception of 'Totem and Taboo'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 37:34-35.

(1956). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 37:34-35

The Inception of 'Totem and Taboo'

Ernest Jones

Freud was very seldom satisfied with his literary productions. Over and over again he made the most disparaging remarks about them, even about those of which we think so highly, such as The Ego and The Id or Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, etc. The only two he really enjoyed writing were the little books on Gradiva and Leonardo: of the latter he said once: 'It is the only pretty thing I have ever written.' But there were three things of which he thought highly, and by which he evidently would have wished to be remembered. They were the last chapter of the Interpretation of Dreams, the last chapter of Totem and Taboo, and his essay on the Unconscious written during the war. These are the only ones with which I have ever known Freud express any satisfaction. They would altogether make a slim volume of 183 pages, a very precious selection from the massive collection of his works. To make the story complete I should add that there were two other little books of which Freud thought well, one that falls before and one after his strictly psycho-analytical period. The former was that on Aphasia, the latter Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

The three writings which, following Freud, we might label as 'good', were all written at breakneck speed, sometimes in an almost dreamlike trance. About the validity of two of them, the first and third, Freud never had any doubts, either at the time or later. This was otherwise with the second one, the one with which we are here concerned.

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